O Anandziu, "The Bird Flew Away"
The poet reads aloud, a South Indian language
I've never heard of. But here in Warsaw
it's translated into Polish-declaimed
by a washed-up TV actor whose last role
was Solidarity Informer. Who can blame
him, dumping vodka into his glass of tea?
He must follow a dread host of speeches,
followed by a string quartet from
State Higher School of Music # 5,
cellist in black with her chain-link belt,
over-dyed black hair she shakes from her eyes.
They play something irrepressibly Polish,
waltz, mazurka, polonaise competing
for the prize. She could be my daughter wringing
Bourees from Bach's Unaccompanied Suite
in the next room as I stick cinnamon into the curry.
Now it's Buddha's beloved disciple Ananda
who has the parquet floor, tempted by a young
village girl drawing water from the well. (Don't
get me started about sources...) In the time it takes
to empty the small bucket into the larger one,
she's already in love with him-barefoot, saffron-robed,
head shaved, "O Ananda,"she cries, "Renounce your vows.
What good is perfect bliss compared to my love?"
He leaves--not bothering to glance back, as she struggles
to hoist and balance the yoke of laden buckets-
chanting from his sutra, The bird flew away...
CAFE HAVELKA, VIENNA
What do you think you're doing? Who do you think
you are? You are not sitting in this cafe
dazed and euphoric on cigarettes and wine
about to share some slivovice, squandering
your guaranteed student loan on a tour
of mitteleuropa. And she is not some eager
wide-eyed girl from Krakow, studying
English Philology, here because
her father's a party functionary, able
to afford travel abroad. And she is not
about to invite you back to her upper bunk
in the student hotel she shares with her band
of English-mangling friends eager to talk rock.
Oh, you I would have loved, oh you who knew it too
"Cafe Havelka, Vienna" originally appeared in The Orpheus
Leonard Kress has published four books, most recently The
Orpheus Complex (Main Street Rag). He has also translated Pan
Tadeusz of Adam Mickiewicz. He teaches philosophy, religion, and
creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.
Mary Krane Derr
The screen door puffs to a halt behind me,
and my dirt-dripping haul from the garden.
As if I were not her mere namesake,
but Panna Maria Herself,
everyone abandons their currant-flavored vodka,
smoked sheep cheese, and thick garlic pickles
to pass the offering around,
its long raggedy toothed green leaves,
thick succulent stems,
rough white knob of root,
to raise it up to their noses
and breathe in its aroma
as reverently and deeply
as Rastamen sharing a spleef,
this Big Thing so redolent of Earth, earth, ziemia,
and the ways it can nip you for good sometimes.
And they chant their divine happy thanks:
Dzienkuje bardzo, chrzan!
Tak dobrze, chrzan!"
And just what
is this incantated chrzan,
besides Polish ganja?
Handy Household Hint:
you don't smoke it, silly.
You grate it and eat it fresh,
or put it up in jars of white vinegar,
to preserve the taste
and prevent discoloration.
It's hardly against the law, but:
Angielski jezyk doesn't taste and see the goodness
of de 'oly 'erb of Poland.
English names it, blech,
do we have to eat it, horseradish,
do we have to eat this frickin ugly thing
a horse wouldn't eat to save his life or his mama's…
While meanwhile someone's aunty
flicks out her Jan Pawel II pocketknife
and slices off a side shoot
to plant in her own yard for next year,
as the pontiff stretches his big welcome
hands out wide as the aroma
of bunches and bunches of it,
he chuckles forth tak dobrze, chrzan!
BLESSED ARE THEY
Before he'd gone over
to the flip side of the ground,
her grandpa poised his
blue eyes dearly above her,
just like the Uncloudy Day
of that song from the country music station.
Mussing up her beagle's
flappy ears and jowly grin
"On Christmas Eve only
the pure of heart only
can hear the animals talk."
And smiled as if
they were all on riproaring
speaking terms with him.
But when Christmas Eve came back
all emptied of him,
she failed failed failed his memory,
she cried herself hotly and drily to sleep.
Because the mockingbird hadn't perched
his comic gray and white flurry
upon her shoulder and giggled in plain English
with her about the silly neighbors
who dashed back inside their house
when he tolled a mockery of their doorbell.
Because the box turtles hadn't ambled
up to the back screen door,
raised their thick, naily front feet
and tapped them against the warped frame
to see if she was in and tell her finally, for real!
if they have the exact same colors
inside as outside their black, glossy,
Then she slid and tumbled
down from her hot, dry weeping,
from that arid, wispy-grassed mite
of a rental lot in Central Oklahoma,
through thinning dirt into
red rock and red rock,
and up through some layers
of strangely thick black soil.
Falling in a shortcut
and crumblings of Earth,
she untombed herself
into the very Poland
that she'd never crossed the ocean
to see or touch before
and saw and touched her waggling dog
and never-vanished grandpa
to burrow and somersault
with them seamlessly in play
through the stolen family
fields of ripening rye
that no great-great uncle's cousin
had ever mentioned to her yet.
Fields golden brown and rustly
as her daily breakfast toast
on Choctaw-Cherokee Way.
And after she tumbled back up
through the ample black
strangeness of that soil,
into the red sandstone rose rocks
and hardscrabble scratches of dirt,
she arrived not back
into hot, arid weeping
of her hound's supple spine
as he lolled it sleepily out
in nubbly, soothing twinship to hers,
while his paws twitched
and drummed with romping
and he barked a muffled version
of the merry, pleading quaver
of greeting he reserved for Grandpa.
In the small, warm,
breathing space between them,
she cupped incredulous hands
around the shock
of the center of gravity
of the overlapping dreams
they'd broadcast one another
all that Holy Night.
In the small, warm,
breathing space between them
she heard out these Facts
of conversation more shining
than the gold foil star atop the fir
one thick-with-dark room over,
more brilliant than the green and red
ribbons she would tug undone
to release the presents beneath,
more shining, more brilliant,
that those gifts beneath the tree
could no longer bear
the loopy, slanted letters
of Grandpa's poinsettia-anointed,
reliable as toast name tags upon them.
A mere five generations away from Poznania in Western Poland,
Mary Krane Derr writes poetry, sings, and grows organic
vegetables on Chicago's South Side.
Snow -- Ryszard Kapuscinski died today
You are falling as many of us fall under gravity's weight
You are flying
From where we all come.
You are leaning against time and earth
Deer marks trace after you
A dog falls inside you with such an obviousness
In its eyes that it makes my flesh creep.
In Subcarpathian Slocina you are the same
As in Turkish Kars
A legend of Herodots.
Love, death and trash are under you
You are geometry on glass
A glass on the road.
They crush our fragile bodies
In your majesty.
Pieces of rockets from Baykonur fall on your head for us
But you are lying on your back in the Altai Mountains
An untouchable equilibrist
Oh, my white idealist.
Translated by Janusz Zalewski and John Guzlowski
I feel the greatest longing at train stations
in angular waiting rooms
on dim platforms
and when the train pulls out and passes the backs of houses
the city's cesspool the other side of walls
the pitch-black yards the rickety fences
those unfulfilled garden plots.
I long for places and people left behind
for the way they could have been for me but are for others
I even long for those I have never met
who still belong irrevocably
to my past.
"Snow" first appeared in Yellow Edenwald Field.
"Krakow-Warsaw West" appeared in Boulevard 2007.
Krystyna Lenkowska's poems, translations, essays, literary notes
and interviews, have been published in Poland and the US. She
lives in Rzeszow, Poland. Her website appears at
It must reassure
to imagine some death
counts more than
the demise of others.
Those who fell faceless
in their own feces or blood
will not be honored
by a ribbon or number
that can be worn.
My ancestors never
received such anointing.
They starved along railway lines
like weeds in a snowstorm,
thin and reedy
as boned songbirds.
did not whisper in
I’ll never know
who they are, their names
The sky is indifferent
to clouds already passing.
I say, take a picture,
and burn it.
He arrives at the Midwest
without a passport,
pulls up to the pump: Ellis Island
of the mind. Is this where
they check us in?
Puts back the nozzle,
plops down his VISA card, starts
signing the forms. Can't
remember the name they give him here.
Something flat, with corn
and soybeans in it.
They wonder why he wails
for the old country: Polkas, meat
lines, pickled pig's-feet,
clothes that smell like leeks.
No one wails here,
not even police wagons.
They clean life off with gasoline.
He pulls into the Midwest
looking at a boxcar rotting, half-open
as a hobo's eye, doesn't know
where these wheels will
take him, what's
next after the migration,
the sunflower, the prairie rat,
drying and wailing the noon-day sun.
"Refugee" was published originally in Poet & Critic and
subsequently in his collection, By the Way. "Holocaust" just
recently appeared in Common Ground Review.
David Radavich's latest poetry collections are America Bound: An
Epic for Our Time (2007) and Canonicals: Love's Hours (2009).
His plays have been performed across the U.S. and in Europe.